With so many corporations merging, downsizing and bailing out of the city, it's always encouraging when a company reaffirms its place in the local economy. And nothing says "We're here!" louder than 7-foot-high freestanding letters atop your roof.
Over the past year, Aetna has added four such signs - complete with the company logo's somewhat whimsical dancing figure - to its headquarters on Farmington Avenue. The signs' brushed metal reflects the sun nicely and they are quite visible from I-84.
Closer to the ground, motorists heading in either direction on Farmington Avenue can, with a little head-craning, see them too.
"We're a 150-year-old company founded in Hartford and we take a great deal of pride in our heritage," says Roger Bolton, Aetna's senior vice president for communications. "Still, we felt we weren't really visible enough. The design challenge in putting up new signs was to make sure they honored the Georgian architecture of our headquarters. So Jack Rowe, who is currently our executive chairman, approved of the rather elegant solution to put the signs on the roof."
For years the MetroHartford Alliance, which functions as the city's chamber of commerce and the region's economic development agency, has encouraged downtown corporations to tout their presence with such signs.
"The fact that companies are willing to advertise their presence is a good thing and demonstrates, in a very public way, not only who they are, but that they're part of a dynamic corporate community," said Oz Griebel, MetroHartford's president and CEO.
Do a few nicely designed signs guarantee a company's fiscal health or its commitment to the city? Of course not. But as theologian Paul Tillich tells us, signs "point beyond themselves to sounds and meanings." So here's hoping Aetna's gold-colored signs point to a corporate declaration of love, or at least fealty to Hartford.
These days, that would be a very good sign indeed.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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